Wednesday, 29 March 2017

29 March

The 29th of March is always a mixed bag of joy and sorrow for me. In 2008 I lost my Ambrose on this date and in 2010 I passed the evening with a person, the repercussions of whom I still feel in my life today. Which one represents the joy and where the sorrow lies depends on how full my wine glass is, I find.

Today has passed quietly and without incident though.  Well aside from Brexit I suppose which has saddened me a great deal. I guess this day continues with its tradition of great emotion after all.

But Three Paw is still with me and the sky is a cotton-candy blue.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Leonardo Da Poggibonsi

Last week there was a day that was so crystal clear the snow-capped mountains in the distance looked like they had been cut into the sky with precision glass. I could even see them from the window of my classroom which I had never seen before. I felt like I was on some American prairie with Brokeback Mountain watching on from a distance. I even glanced out the window from time to time praying for a couple of gay cowboys to ride on past. Alas, no such luck - the only past I encountered was the past perfect.

Anyway the next day a summery haze fell upon the hills of Vinci and I think perhaps it may be the last glimpse of those mountains I will see for a while. The Vinci to which I refer is, of course, the birthplace of Leonardo.  Lucky he was born there I say and not some of the other places around here like Poggibonsi. I cannot imagine Leonardo Da Poggibonsi garnering the same level of respect.

I visited Vinci last summer with my folks. It is a sleepy little town with an interesting museum and a lovely vista out over the hills. I could even make out San Minitao if I squinted hard enough. Quite a few of my students come from around those hills, such a magical place to be raised I think.

Ha! You didn't think I would finish a blog entry without mentioning Three Paw. She is doing great. I mean for someone who has just had chemo and has a nasty Nick Nolte on her leg. In fact the swelling on her leg has gone down and she is walking much better so I think Nick is feeling the pinch a bit. I was told to expect a couple of days of anorexia from her but she has been eating like a little furry star. She has a different relationship to food than other cats who were born into privilege. She really does appreciate its arrival and its need to be consumed. It doesn't mean she always eats an awful lot but she engages with it and makes a purring 'rar rar' sound as she eats.

Pirate meanwhile has been climbing walls and trees as part of her spring fling!

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Chemo with da boyfriend

Three Paw and her Sicilian date, Alberto
Yesterday morning, early, Three Paw climbed on to my chest and sat purring into my face; Pirate lay with her head against my ear and we were in a moment of bliss. After our little purr circle, Three Paw and I hopped on a train to Florence so she could start her chemotherapy. When I left her she was kneading my  jumper and purring to Alberto, her boyfriend vet.

That cat teaches me more about being zen than any handbook ever could.

Later I had a mail from Alberto telling me the chemo had finished, that she hadn't needed sedation (she fancies him you see) and that she was doing fine. It made the conjugation of verbs at work much easier I can tell you.

Unfortunately she had to stay the night at the vet hospital because I didn't finish work until 8.30 pm. The ironic thing is the night in hospital  actually cost me more than I earned by staying at work but when you are a teacher it is difficult to cancel classes and I didn't want to cause the school any bother.

I stayed in Florence with a colleague and we both slept well and deeply. As my colleague said sometimes you just need to have another person near you.

I collected Three Paw in the morning, still purring, and we took the train back to San Miniato. She got so many bellissimas on the train I am beginning to think she secretly enjoys the jaunts into Florence. When she lived in Turkey she used to spend her days lounging on the pavement lapping up cok guzels from all the passersby. I suspect my little madame revels in adoration.

Back in her street days...working that pose

Now she is home, she even obliged me with some snacking which is a great sign.

Now in her crib
WARNING: I suspect my blog is going to be a little Three Paw heavy over these coming weeks but I want to honour her journey and what an amazing companion she is.

Monday, 13 March 2017

It takes a village

Today I had a message from Three Paw's daddy in Turkey, Kerim. Originating from Konya (of course) he is the most gentle, loving soul you could ever meet in your life. He is responsible for keeping her safe all those years so we could finally meet. He wrote, today, about how he still misses her and how I should give her a cuddle even though she doesn't like it. It made me laugh. He is right. Three Paw likes to bank against you, she likes to lie her head in your hands, she likes to stand on your chest with the full weight of her body in her one front paw but she does not like all-encompassing cuddles.

I gave her one anyway and I thought I saw a smile.

I have been thinking about how many people have been a part of her life and that old saying 'it takes a village to raise a child.' I think in her case this is definitely true as well. From Kerim and all the old men who used to watch over her on Kazanci Street, to her English, Canadian and Belgium guardians who helped me when she was in trouble. Now even here in Italy I have a neighbour who drives us to the train in Empoli whenever she needs to go to Florence ( to see her boyfriend vet Alberto) and tomorrow night another Greek friend will host us in Florence so we don't have to journey late in the night.

You could say it has taken 'a global village' to raise this miracle girl.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Blue n Green

I am not sure what poet of the English language coined the phrase 'blue and green should never be seen' but I feel, respectfully, I must disagree. I cannot think of two colours that meld better together and create scenes that can both enrich and break your heart with their beauty.

It is hard to appreciate their splendour when all you can see is black and white but today I sat in my garden and really tried to see their light.

Such a long day but never has the sky seemed so blue nor the grass as green and alive.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Different streets

me and my bike
I have been looking at old photos I have of me back when I lived in Florence in 2005-06.  I was in utter infatuation with the city - her streets, her stench, her light, her soul. I was like a woman in love.

I don't feel this way about the city anymore. Damascus makes my heart race now as does Istanbul. But I can still remember how I felt and tomorrow when I go back for yet another vet-focussed visit, I am going to try and conjure that feeling deep in my heart.

One thing I love though about this picture of me back then is the fact that I was riding my bike through the dank, dark streets of Florence and in another city far away Three Paw was living her own life. We hadn't yet met but we were both living and loving and surviving our own stories.

So many different good and terrible things had to happen in both our lives to bring us together.  And perhaps if I had turned left one day on my bike instead of right we would never have met and that, perhaps, would have been the greatest tragedy of all.

three paw and her bike

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Signor Nolte/ Nolte Bey

I wish Three Paw and I could go on a holiday somewhere (to Antalya  for example) and when we checked in at the airport they would ask if we had any extra baggage.  I would say 'yes' and give them her tumour to put in the hold and then we would forget to pick it up at the other end. I would call it Signor Nolte ( or Nolte Bey  in deference to three Paw's Turkishness) because of the actor whom I have never liked very much. I hate this tumour. It is so ugly and angry and unwelcome. Three paw is more hospitable towards it and sometimes gives it a lick. I need to break that friendship as soon as possible.

Today has been a good day though. Cloudless sky and a warm spring sun. Three Paw took herself out into the garden which is a good thing. Yesterday she was so unhappy, she cried out in pain and she rarely ever cries. Not because of Sig Nolte himself but because she had a bandage on her leg after the biopsy and it hurt her. When I tried to take it off she became very angry and Pirate came over to give her a slap. This did not help matters.

At least now the bandage has gone. Her paw is horribly swollen but she is eating and doing garden things so it is a good day for us all.

I wish I had other news to report but there isn't much else. Last night I saw someone in my dreams I hasn't seen for a while. We passed each other in the street, our hands linked as we passed, and then we walked on. It was beautiful.

Monday, 6 March 2017

Planes, trains and automobiles

Today Three Paw and I went for a day trip to Florence.  I hardly ever get into the big smoke so I guess I have her to thank for necessitating the journey. I'm not sure who had the better day.  She got scanned and biopsied by a rather hirsute and handsome doctor called Alberto. (I think she has a crush.) I got to wander around the streets with rain-string hair.

Even Dantè needed a diving mask on a day like today.

News in her department continues to be vague and grim but at least now she has vets on her side which makes the whole thing feel less daunting. I particularly liked this Alberto fellow because he was really taken by her story and you could see he regarded her with great respect. And that I believe is what she would want above all. To have her indomitable spirit and resilience given the kudos it deserves.

On the train ride home she beguiled the whole carriage with her bright eyes and ravenous appetite. I merely basked in her afterglow and thought of all the planes, trains and automobiles this courageous girl has ridden.

Friday, 3 March 2017

Morning tea

This morning I decided to drink my tea in the garden. It is such a beautiful, chaotic, haphazard kind of place that tumbles down the hillside and out into the hills. The spring flowers are beginning to raise their sleepy heads and my Rosemary Bush is in full bloom like a promise of renewed life. Mainly I decided to sit outside though because it is where my girls like to spend their post-breakfast ambles. Pirate scouring the stone wall for mice and snakes. Three Paw bounding through the grass with the odd one-armed attack on an unsuspecting olive tree. For a minute as I watched her smiling among the flowers, I couldn't see her nasty tumour I could only see her. And it reminded me to keep seeing her, championing her cause.

Nothing has changed but I feel a little better today. Mainly because I managed to take charge. I have changed vets and have an appointment in Florence on Monday morning with a vet hospital there. And you know what, they may not be able to change the ultimate outcome ( although they may) but they were attentive and immediate and full of diagnostic plans. They won't be cheap I know but that is a challenge for another day ( or probably years! Never has the need for a more lucrative career change spoke so loudly to me.)

But as I said, that is for another day. Now is about action, about information and about love.

Thursday, 2 March 2017


I wonder if there is a word in some language which means not wanting to leave your home and then not wanting to return because that is exactly how I felt today. Three Paw's cancer diagnosis has torn my heart into shreds and when she lies next to me in the morning I never want to leave. Then I go to work and I dread coming home because I know she will be waiting there with a jingle in her bell....and one day she won't.

But not today, I say to myself, not today.

I think it would help if I had any trust in the vets here. I have none with my current one and I plan to see another one on the weekend. Even her somewhat brusque vet in Istanbul now seems like a distant dream.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

On a new road

So today was one of those beautiful days that seemed like nothing terrible could possibly ever happen.

I decided to walk to the vet clinic in Ponte Egola to pick up some results. I walked to save money but I think I walked more to feel the distance between my home and the clinic. It was a good albeit exhausting decision. It really felt like when I saw my village from a distance everything troubling me was there and I was free for a minute. Free of all fears.  And it was such a peaceful meander along a quiet village road, the occasional birdsong and nodding farmer but not much else.

Of course the road must always end but not today I tell myself.

My Three Paw, my stalwart friend, has cancer. But in case you haven't met me that doesn't mean we simply give up. Not today my dear friend, not on such a glorious blue sky day.